Hiking the Columbia Gorge

Columbia River and Freight Train

I had the privilege of hiking two different trails while visiting the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia Gorge recently. The trails were on opposite sides of the Columbia River, in two different states.

 

Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River

On the north shore of the river is the state of Washington, the south side is Oregon.

 

With the helpful emails and posts of fellow blogger and PNW hiker John Carr, both hikes were awesome, and the book he suggested, Northwest Oregon by William L. Sullivan, was great. His website, johncarroutdoors.com, is dedicated primarily to PNW hikes.

 

The first day, Athena and I hiked the Falls Creek Falls trail in Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington, named after the first Chief of the United States Forest  Service. This trail was enchanting due to dynamic Falls Creek that was present every step of the way. Sometimes the waters expressed a calm chattering, other times, passionately raging.

 

Two exquisite footbridges aided us as we traversed the trail.

 

Suspension Footbridge, Falls Creek Falls Trail

After marveling at the footbridge engineering and enjoying  many unfamiliar plants along the way, we hiked further and discovered the old-growth trees.

 

We were awed by towering moss-covered rock walls and magnificent old-growth Douglas fir trees.

Rock Wall, Falls Creek Falls Trail

 

Athena demonstrating the size of the old-growth Douglas Fir tree

I always enjoy hiking on familiar trails, observing each new season with appreciation, and warmly greeting the trees, plants, and wildlife as the old friends they are.

 

But it’s also really fun to be in a completely new forest, especially when it is a winner. Each turn of the path yields a new surprise…mystery and adventure.

 

As we continued along the trail, the sound of the water gradually increased until it was so loud we could no longer hear each other speak…and then, through the trees, we were astounded to see the crashing waters high above us.

Falls Creek Falls, Washington

The guidebook’s author described the waterfall perfectly: “The 3-tiered cascade starts with a hidden 50-foot falls, spreads across a 70-foot fan, and finally thunders 80 feet into a rock punchbowl.”

Falls Creek Falls

We had lunch at the waterfall, and headed back, completely satisfied and happy for the magic we had experienced.

 

The other hike occurred a day later in Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon. The High Prairie Trail on Lookout Mountain.

 

As we ascended, we came upon a few meadows, like this one. Although is was late August, there were still wildflowers.

Meadow, Mount Hood National Forest

 

As we continued, we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River Plateau.

Mount Hood and Columbia River Plateau

That day it was 90 degrees F. (32 C.), so we stopped a few times in the ascent, finding rocks to sit on and marveling at the quiet magnificence.

 

More surprises prevailed as the close-up views of Mount Hood just kept getting better and better.

 

Mount Hood, Oregon

There is no place in the world like the Pacific Northwest with its endless waterfalls, gorgeous trails, and sweeping mountain vistas.

 

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

 

Columbia River Gorge

75 thoughts on “Hiking the Columbia Gorge

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the hikes to the Gorge today, Timothy. It was a thrill to see such huge Douglas firs, and yes, it was a lot of fun. My thanks for your visit and comment, much appreciated.

  1. Towering, magnificent, breathtaking – you found the words to describe the mystery and adventure when exploring the PNW!
    Great hikes in spectacular locations on surprisingly warm days are days to remember – thanks for sharing these! (We were at the base of Mt. Hood some years ago, and surprised to see skiers and snowboarders preparing to head up. I don’t know if it is still the case, but there were ski runs open in summer!)
    Thanks again, and have a wonderful weekend!

    • Yes, these were certainly days to remember, pc, and it’s a joy to share them with you, a PNW die-hard. Maybe in the early summer there were ski runs open (wow!), but at the end of August there were no ski runs or snow enthusiasts, and it was really hot. We had hoped for the famous PNW cool weather and rain, in fact, coming from hot and dry Calif., but we landed there on a hot week. Great fun. Thanks, pc, I hope you and Mrs. pc and Scout have a fantastic weekend.

  2. Wonderful captures from your hikes, Jet, love the close-up of Mount Hood framed with the trees. Also enjoyed seeing Athena hugging the Douglas Fir, putting its size into perspective…..WOW! I bet it appreciated Athena’s hug too!! 🙂

  3. Your post brings me nice memories about a road trip we’ve had along Columbia River few years ago. I wish to go back one day and do some hiking, there are amazing vistas in the area, Thank you!
    Have a great weekend!
    Christie

    • Yes, it’s true, once we visit the Columbia River Gorge, we can’t stay away. I’m glad you enjoyed today’s post, and am happy to revive your memories, Christie. You, too, have a great weekend.

  4. What a wonderful experience to first just take in the gorge and then to hike and explore and to see Mt. Hood — you’re both very lucky

  5. Thanks for sharing about your PNW hikes, Jet. Lovely to see that you enjoyed the area. We hiked the High Prairie Trail to Lookout Mountain a few years back. What a nice trail to hike to see Mt. Hood in full view. I hope you and Athena are doing well.

    • Oh how nice to read that you and David hiked the High Prairie Trail, too, Keng. We found it quiet and out-of-the-way, and especially spectacular. You know what I mean about the glory of seeing Mt. Hood so close. Prior to that hike, earlier in the week, we had stopped the car and pulled over to take photos of Mt. Hood quite far away, never realizing we’d be so close to it in a few days. Really wonderful to hear from you, Keng. Athena and I are doing well. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • How very wonderful that you had a chance to stop by today, John. And I really appreciate your approval of the post. Two really great hikes, thanks to your helpful suggestions. Thanks so very much, John.

    • The waterfalls in the PNW are so numerous and big, most of them would be considered a giant waterfall in another state where there aren’t so many. Fun to share this adventure with you, Eliza, thank you.

  6. Those trails look absolutely wonderful Jet. I really love that shot of the old fallen bleached tree with its branches sticking out.
    I suspect Athena is a secret tree hugger …. which I totally support! 😉

    • I really liked that photo, too, Alastair. That downed tree was such a huge and dominating force, even without the life force, with its giant presence and bleached appearance. And you’re right, Athena is a tree hugger…and now we have evidence. 😉 Always a true joy to hear from you, thank you for stopping by.

    • I can never get enough of nature for that renewal factor (excepting wildfires, that is), and yes, I was filled with joy and gratitude after our Columbia Gorge adventure. Thank you, Miriam, always a pleasure to hear from you.

    • I liked your comment, Nan. It was refreshing twice over for me, to experience it and then to write it, so I’m glad it refreshed you to read it, too, Nan. Much love and thanks.

  7. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Back to Serenity (Monte Velho) | restlessjo

  8. Thanks for sharing your reflections from these beautiful northwestern hikes. It makes me yearn for a return visit to that area and to broaden my experience of outdoor Oregon & Washington. You are always an inspiration!

    • I’m happy my Columbia Gorge post inspired you to want to visit the area again sometime, Walt. A similar thing happened to me as I followed John Carr’s post week after week, he reminded me of the endless beauty they have there. Glad I could pass on the wonder of WA and OR. Thanks for your kind words, Walt.

  9. Falls Creek Falls really is a terrific hike with an outstanding payoff. If you’re ever in that area again you might also check out Panther Creek Falls. I haven’t done the High Prairie Trail, but it looks like I should – beautiful shots of Hood.

  10. Excellent post…..I now have two trails to add to my list on my next trip up there and they both offer very different perspectives of nature….Mt Hood and Falls Creek Falls…..love hiking in the Pacific Northwest!!
    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!

    • I love hiking in the PNW, too, Kirt. The first wildflower field I ever saw was on Mt. Hood many decades ago, and I have loved it ever since. I’m glad I could share these two diverse hikes with you. My best to you and your family for a Happy Thanksgiving, Kirt. Thanks so much.

  11. I certainly agree about hiking in the Pacific Northwest. I can’t hike like I used to but in 2015 and 2016 I was happy to do as much as I did in Washington and Oregon… which is more than a lot of people much younger than I am! I’m grateful I can still put one foot in front of the other on a trail. Those forests and mountains in that area are magical. Love the photos!

  12. Both trails sound great and your writing about them have gotten me inspired. Really cool to be able to do a hike one day in one state and the following day in another. Awesome view of Mount Hood!

    • I thought it was cool, too, to have the two different states so close together, Bertie. One state charges income taxes and the other doesn’t, I got caught up a few times while making purchases. And yes, we were thrilled with the views of Mt. Hood on that trail. Thanks so much for your visit…always a pleasure.

  13. Nice to see you up closer to my territory. You certainly got it right: “no place in the world like the Pacific Northwest”. 😀

    Silver Falls State Park is the crown jewel in the OR State Parks IMHO. We camp there when visiting the grandkids. It has a trail that has ten waterfalls (if my memory isn’t failing me.) You can walk right under one.

    Sorry I’ve been absent… my computer has been giving me fits. 😦 Trying desperately to catch up.

  14. It is a delight to hear from a PNWer here, Gunta, thanks so much for your visit and contribution. I looked up Silvers Falls SP and oh wow, one park with ten waterfalls! That’s the PNW all over. Wikipedia said it’s the largest SP in OR. Always a delight to hear from you, and your PNW experience here will come in handy the next time I’m up that way. Thanks so much.

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